Around the World at 20 Knots
Around the World at 20 Knots
Perfect Bound Softcover
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There are publications available that describe in general terms what freighter travel is all about and what itineraries are available giving details such as cost, available berths, expected schedule, crew nationalities, and a general description of the ship.  However, since most people know little or nothing about freighter travel, the need exists for additional information about the joys and likely pitfalls freighter travelers may encounter.  Around the World at 20 Knots is an extremely humorous account of Derek and Alwyne Richardson’s 88-day voyage completely around the world on a German freighter ship.  With a big box of books, two laptop computers, a GPS to track the course, a digital camera and printer to record the journey, they boarded the Marfret Provence and began an adventure that would exceed all their expectations.  They share with you their relationships with the officers, crew, and fellow passengers while floating from sea to sea, and port to port, along with 2,400 containers.  The tides and winds affect the schedule and port times, but Alwyne and Derek are determined to make the most of the shore time allotted in each of the twenty-two expected ports – sometimes with hilarious results – and always with photos.

Freighter Travel.  What is it?  Who can go?  How do you arrange a trip?  I didn’t know you could travel on a freighter.  How do you find out what’s available?  These are just a few of the responses my wife and I received when we mentioned that we were planning an 88-day around the world trip on a container ship.  Passengers have been traveling by freighter for a long time.  For about three years in the early sixties, I sailed as third mate on American merchant ships, and more often than not we carried a few passengers.  In particular, I remember a missionary and his family on a freighter traveling to the west coast of Africa.  Today, many merchant ships carry up to twelve passengers.  If more than twelve are carried, a doctor would be required.

At the end of May 2001, I retired, and my wife retired two weeks later.  Alwyne (my wife), had always wanted to travel around the world, and was aware of freighter travel because of my background.  She jumped on the Internet, and low and behold there was a plethora of available information on freighter travel.  We subscribed to two publications: Freighter Space Advisory published twice monthly by Freighter World Cruises, Inc., and TravLtips published once every two months.  Freighter World Cruises, Inc., is the largest travel agency in the world dedicated to freighter travel.  After receiving several issues of Freighter Space Advisory, there it was: a description of an 88-day around the world trip.

Embarkation would be at the Red Hook container terminal in Brooklyn, New York.  The anticipated itinerary after that was: Norfolk, Virginia; Savannah, Georgia; Kingston, Jamaica; Manzanillo, Panama; Panama Canal transit; Papeete, Tahiti; Auckland, New Zealand; Noumea, New Caledonia; Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne, Australia; Jakarta, Indonesia; Singapore; Colombo, Sri Lanka; Suez Canal transit; Port Said, Egypt; La Spezia, Italy; Marseille, France; Tilbury, England; Hamburg, Germany; Rotterdam, Holland; Dunkirk, France; Le Havre, France, and disembarkation back at the Red Hook terminal in Brooklyn.  It is advertised as an anticipated itinerary since it can vary and you have to be flexible.  However, on our trip, the itinerary was exact.

The ship would be the motor vessel Marfret Provence.  The Rickmers Reederei Company owns her, and she is 642 feet long and can carry approximately 2,400 20 and 40 foot containers.  Her gross tonnage is about 26,000 tons with a maximum displacement of 42,000 tons.  We would occupy the spacious two room Owner’s Suite on F deck, under the Bridge, facing forward with unobstructed views.  The living room is furnished with a desk and chair, a large sitting area, extra storage, mini-refrigerator, and contains a multi-system VCR and CD player.  The bedroom contains a queen size bed situated in the middle of the room so that it is accessible from both sides.  The bathroom, shower, and storage areas in the bedroom are roomy.

We contacted Freighter World and started the ball rolling.  Everything, including necessary visas and immunizations proceeded smoothly and quickly and was handled mostly by phone or letter.  Before we knew it everything was in order and we anticipated the departure date with high expectations.  Alwyne started a journal or log two days before departure and continued until our disembarkation on the 88th day.  Alwyne’s journal follows along with input from me (Derek’s Take:), whenever I deemed it necessary, or sometimes just for the heck of it.  After the journal, there is an official Event Log of our trip that basically matches the official ship’s log.  I maintained the Event Log using a GPS receiver and my laptop and I believe it to be accurate.  We traveled roughly 29,500 nautical miles at about an average speed of 20 knots.  Here’s the journal:   

Alwyne and Derek Richardson are a Virginia Beach, Virginia couple with a severe case of wanderlust – and retirement has given them the time to attempt to cure it.  Derek was born in Belfast, Ireland in 1939 and immigrated to the US in 1948.  He graduated from the SUNY Maritime College in 1961 and sailed for three years as Third Mate on merchant ships (freighters).  After leaving the maritime industry, he eventually entered the world of computers and retired as a Systems Analyst in 2001.  Alwyne was born in 1943 on Long Island, NY.  She graduated from Marietta College in Ohio in 1965, and before and after raising three children also worked in the computer field.  They met on the job in 1988, and in 1994 traveled to Glyfada, Greece and were married.  That same year they moved to Virginia where they are visited often by their 5 children and 7 grandchildren..  After retiring in 2001 they embarked on a remarkable 88-day around the world trip on a German container ship.  Since then they have been on safari in Africa, and are planning a circumnavigation of South America next.


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